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7.0 Learning Outcome

7.1 Introduction

7.2 Modes of Interaction between Citizens and Administration

7.3 The State’s Responses towards Participation

7.4 Norms Governing the Interaction

7.5 Research on Citizen – Administration Relationship

7.6 Institutional Devices and Strategies

7.7 The Indian Scenario

7.8 Conclusion

7.9 Key Concepts

7.10 References and Further Reading

7.11 Activities


After reading this Unit, you will be able to:

• Appreciate the importance of interface between the administrators and the citizens in
a democracy

• Identify the different modes of interaction between the citizens and administration

• Examine the different kinds of responses of the State towards participation

• Understand the norms governing the interaction

• Get acquainted with the researches on citizen-administration relationship

• Explain the institutional strategies and devices for building citizen-administration

interface; and

• Discuss the Indian scenario on citizen-administration interface


No system of governance can survive for a long time without the support of the citizens.
It is evident from the history of the nations that longevity of their governments largely
depended on the cooperation and support rendered to them by their citizens. Wherever
this support was missing, the nations found themselves in deep trouble that made their
future uncertain. The administration-citizen relations are significant because the support
and consent of the governed is a prerequisite for the sustenance of a representative
government like the one in India. The traditional theories of relationship between the
State and society or government and the citizens, in different political systems, be it
laissez- faire or democracy or military dictatorship are now inadequate to cope with the
new and difficult dimensions of administration that are gradually emerging. Position of
the public or citizens from being mere recipients of the administrative help has now
shifted to their being the prime movers in the affairs of governance - a change from local
‘beneficiary’ status to active ‘participant status’. This Unit focuses on the various modes
of interaction between citizens and administration. It discusses the changing norms of
their interaction and institutional strategies and devices that try to build a theoretical
conceptual base for the interface. The Unit particularly discusses the Indian scenario in
order to understand the different dimensions of the interaction between citizens and



Today, governance is all about efficient and effective provision of goods and services.
Public Administration exists for the betterment of the public by providing services such
as health, education, economic security, maintenance of law and order, national defence,
etc. The public interacts more intimately with public agencies at the cutting edge level.
Local government, for instance, affects people’s lives in various ways. The encounters
may pertain to water supply, electricity, garbage disposal and so on.

There are different ways in which the public interacts with the public administrative
agencies in real life situations. These interactions could be in the form of:

i) Clients: This is the most common form of interaction with the administrative
agencies. In this form, citizens seek to obtain benefits or services from governmental
agencies. For example, a patient visits a government hospital for health check-up or
medical treatment.

ii) Regulatees: As a regulatee, the public interacts with many public agencies viz.,
police, income tax authorities, licensing authorities, etc

iii) Litigants: The harassed citizens turn litigants when they seek redressal of their
grievances from the courts, tribunals and Lok Adalats. As litigants, public can hope
to get justice for their complaints.

iv) Participants: Democracy entails increased people’s participation in governance.

This is institutionalised through various means like community policing, guardian
committee, beneficiary associations etc. In almost all programmes/projects, the
people participate at the levels of planning, implementing and monitoring. People's
participation democratises both administration and public, and also brings in new
inputs that help sound project designing, implementation, and facilitation of assets

v) Protesters and those engaged in struggles and people’s movements: People often
interact with government agencies on public policy as protesters, critically opposing
the injustice in government policy and action. People’s struggles like the one over
Narmada Dam or forests in Uttar Pradesh (Now Uttarchanal), symbolise articulation
of genuine grievance and demands and not just questioning of grievous faults in
pubic policies faults.


State’s (government in practice) responses to the varied interactions would be dependent

on three crucial factors: (a) The overall politico-administrative culture which may be
formally democratic but actually authoritarian or patriarchal (b) The capacity of the
people evolved through democratic learning processes to articulate demands and put
pressure for just administrative functioning, and (c) The status-fairly independent and
impartial of other cognate institutions like the judiciary and the media.

In this connection James Midgley’s typology of State’s responses towards citizens’

participation are worth mentioning. The four ideal typical responses suggested by him
are ‘anti-participation’, ‘manipulative’, ‘incremental’ and ‘participatory’.

These interactions take place daily and the ordinary citizens form an opinion about public
administration out of these happy/unhappy encounters with public officials:

i) The ‘anti-participatory’ mode explains that State in the capitalist system is not
interested in ameliorating the conditions of the downtrodden. Power is
concentrated and not dispersed to facilitate accumulation of wealth. People’s
participation is, thus, not politically acceptable.

ii) The ‘manipulative mode’ seeks to neutralise political opposition by co-opting

autonomous movements with the ulterior motive of gaining control over them.
There is the rhetoric of participation but not its reality, as the State’s motive is to
prove to the people that the regime is accommodative merely to give legitimacy to
the regime in power.

iii) The ‘incremental mode’ has an ambivalent approach to community participation.

There is no lack of government support to participation, but the policy is unclear
and the general tendency is to muddle through. In theory, participation is not
rejected but what actually takes place is bureaucratically managed development in
the name of efficiency.

iv) The ‘participatory mode’ is characterised by State’s own initiative to create

institutions of community participation to ensure effective involvement of the
people in grass roots development. But, this mode works on the assumptions that
there is a presence of a positive political will and the bureaucracy is also
positively inclined towards development and participation (C.f Bhattacharya,

v) Yet another response not included in Midgley’s list, but which is important in the
Third World context, is the ‘repressive mode’. Very often, what is noticed is that
the State reacts negatively and ruthlessly to people’s movements and struggles.
Instances are not rare when the people’s genuine demands for basic needs like
water, forest, cheap food have been construed as anti-state and the regime in
power has sought to unleash brutal force to suppress these demands.

In India where because of social and economic causes ‘women’ and the ‘poor’ are often
discriminated against, the concept of citizen having ‘rights’ and enjoying political
equality does not in reality prevail. We will discuss aspect in our next Units 8,9 and 10.


In the field of development administration, the client is differentiated on the basis of

target groups. There are projects that are meant for tribals, children and women,
scheduled castes and other socially backward classes. Clientele differentiation increases
the complexities of interaction between Public Administration and the public. In the
developing countries, it is the poor and the underprivileged that constitute the majority of
the population. National projects are implemented by the state concerned and mainly
through the district administration. These implementers/bureaucracies treat the target
groups as ‘beneficiaries’. Such a top-down delivery system has, in most cases failed to
ameliorate the living conditions of the target groups, mainly because of hijacking of
benefits and resources by the village elite.

The Centrally planned projects have often disregarded and misinterpreted the local needs
and conditions. Interaction between people and government, especially in dealing with
poverty, has generally been looked at from the government’s point of view, making the
poor more and more dependent on the government for help. Field researchers are now
forcefully arguing that developing people’s capacity to improve their lot is what is
needed rather than repeated governmental efforts to design newer and newer projects.

As Frances Korten (1981) has stated “The very ability of the poor to survive under the
most unfavourable circumstances suggests that they are quite skilled in meeting their own
basic needs even if only at standards intolerable to a socially conscious society. Too often
the government programmes seek to improve their lot, not through interventions intended
to strengthen their own capacity for ‘self-help’ action, but through doing for them, what
they previously did for themselves – with the government making the decisions and
providing the resources. As a consequence, the people’s former self-sufficiency turns into
dependence on the government leaving them even more vulnerable than before to the
changes in the policies or lapses in the delivery systems”.

Participatory and people-centred development activities are now being advocated and
actively undertaken for the real benefits of the people. It would also create good image of
Public Administration in the minds of the poor and the underprivileged sections of the
society. The relationship between Public Administration and the citizens raises a number
of important issues regarding the role of the government machinery and its interactions
with the public.

As Katz and Danet (1973) explain in their volume on Bureaucracy and the Public, the
structure of bureaucratic organisations subsumes a set of guiding norms governing the
relationships between the organisation and the clientele. These norms are identified as (a)
specificity, (b) universalism, and (c) affective neutrality. Specificity refers to the strictly
limited zone of interaction between administration and the clients as formally defined by
the organisation. In a public transport, the passenger pays the fare and the conductor
assures him a travel up to a definite distance. Universalism stands for equal treatment of
defined group as organisationally prescribed. For instance, every bus passenger will have
to pay the same fare for the same distance and the conductor is duty bound to behave
uniformly in each case. Affective neutrality means exhibition of unbiased attitude toward
the client, and by implication, non-display of passions or feelings like anger, affection

Besides, a certain set of factors assume importance in any government-citizen interaction.

These are: the manner, the procedures, and the resources exchanged. Manner refers to the
behavioural transaction in an interactional situation. How does the government officer
talk to or receive a member of the public, say in a post office? Procedures refer to the
administrative processes involved in an interaction. How many forms one has to fill up?
How long does one have to stand in a queue before a bank counter, for instance? The
resources exchanged denote the outcome of interaction. Could a person ultimately
withdraw money from his savings bank account? Did a person get the building
permission from the municipality? The structural norms and the three dimensions of
interactions are useful conceptualisations for empirical examination of bureaucracy-client
relationships in specific situations (Bhattacharya, 1987).



“The relational aspect of bureaucracy- its interaction with the public and its subservience
to the public interest-is not properly articulated in Weber’s theoretical construct. As
James D. Thompson (1962) has put it “Classic bureaucratic theory is preoccupied with
behavioural relations ordered by a single unified authority structure from which client is
excluded…” The bureaucratic organisation is a fixed monolith, which approximates a
steady and depersonalised machine. An automaton works uniformly and with unfaltering
regularity. The underlying assumption seems to be that the client for whom the machine
exists has to be adjustable, as the machine itself is inflexible. The inevitable result that
follows is what Robert Merton has called the ‘unintended consequences of the
bureaucratic structure’. Even if the client would not be served due to procedural rigidity,
the organisation would not shed its procrustean character. The Weberian theory is an
inward – looking structural construct par excellence. Its face is toward the organisation
and not the client (Cf Bhattacharya, 1987, op.cit).

There have been some important studies on the relationship between the bureaucracy and
the client. Of these, special mention could be made of Peter Blau’s study (1973) of a
public welfare agency, William Foote Whyte’s study of human relations in the restaurant
industry, and the research on new Israeli immigrants by Elihu Katz and S. N. Eisenstadt
concentrating on the orientation of case workers serving clients in a public welfare
agency. Blau points out the rigidities that are produced by administrative procedures, the
‘rigidities shock’ which young case workers experience on their joining the organisation,
the kind of peer group support that develops in the organisation, and how all these
influence the relationship between the case workers and the clients.

Whyte’s study is much more illuminating as it delves deep into the delicate human
relation problems in a restaurant considered as a combination of production and service
unit which draws attention to a “high degree of social adaptability” of the worker and the
need for client orientation of the whole organisation. The supervision in such a situation
has to shed the laissez-faire attitude and look upon a restaurant or factory as an
organisation of human relations, and as a system of inter-personal communication in
order to improve client-organisation relationship.

Eisenstadt’s earlier writings on the conditions of development of bureaucratic

organisations and the environment indicate that, “The (se) structural characteristics do
not, however, develop in a social vacuum but are closely related to the functions and
activities of the bureaucratic organisation in its environment. The extent to which they
can develop and persist in any bureaucratic organisation is sought to be explained more
by referring to the environmental conditions.

In this connection, Eisenstadt uses the concept of ‘debureacratisation’ to connote changes

in bureaucratic organisation caused by close interactions between the organisation and
the clients. “In debureaucratisation, the specific characteristics of the bureaucracy in
terms both of its authority and its specific rules and goals are minimised, even up to the
point where its very functions and activities are taken over by other groups or

Katz and Eisenstadt (1960) explored the changes in the bureaucratic organisation in
response to the needs of the clients. As the new immigrants from the non-Western
countries were pouring into Israel, the Israeli organisations had to adapt themselves to
cope with the large influx of clients. On a theoretical plane, the notion of “Role
impingement is a characterisation of bureaucratisation and debureaucratisation”. This
needs some elaboration. It has been suggested that the factors affecting bureaucratisation
are many. For instance, when a public bureaucracy has a monopoly of certain goods and
services, the client has little chance of making an effective protest and “Under such
circumstances, bureaucrats may permit themselves an attitude of detachment and
ritualistic formalism vis-à-vis their clients”. Using the ‘role’ concept, Katz and Eisenstadt
observe that as a special case of the notion of dependence of clients, and officials in an
interaction situation might be looked at as a special case of the impingement for other
role relationships on a given bureaucratic relationship”. Debureaucratisation can be
conceived “In terms of impingement of non-bureaucratic role relations… or, in its
totalitarian form, as the imposition of bureaucratic relationship on relations outside the
scope of bureaucracy”.

The upshot of what Katz and Eisenstadt have said is that the theory of bureaucracy, i.e.
Max Weber’s bureaucracy does not so much explain the relationship between
organisation and environment as it deals with the formal characteristics of the
organisations. To quote Katz and Eisenstadt, “In effect, overbureaucratisation and
debureaucratisation represent a disturbance in the relationship between an organisation
and its environment that is not envisioned by classical model of bureaucracy. This model
envisages the roles of both bureaucrat and client as segregated to some extent from their
role and not completely independent of other roles; some outside roles may be clearly
considered. If an old man, obviously unable to wait for his turn in a long queue, is given
special attention by a clerk, this is not a case of an irrelevant role relationship being
allowed incorrectly to impinge on the bureaucrat-client relationship.”

Janowitz and others (1958) refer to the term ‘balance’ in public administration, which has
significance for citizen-administration relations. Public administration will be in a state of
imbalance if it becomes too overbearing or subservient. As it has been observed, “A
bureaucracy is in imbalance when in fails to operate on the basis of democratic consent.
Bureaucratic imbalance may be either despotic or subservient. ‘Despotic’ implies that the
bureaucracy is too much the master; while subservient implies that it is too much the
servant. The despotic bureaucracy disregards public preference and demands. It is likely
to resort to coercion and manipulation to maintain its power. The subservient bureaucracy
finds itself so concerned with the demands of special interest groups that it compromises
its essential organisational goals and essentially sacrifices authority.”

Bureaucratic dominance has been a constant theme in the literature on administration in

the developing countries due to the legacy of imperial rule in most countries. Public
administration in the ex-colonial countries like India used to have a private character
because of its limited scope, insularity, inequity, and methods of operation. Maintenance
10 of law and order and revenue raising were the prime considerations of administration.
The administrative operations were undertaken autonomously in the absence of public
participation and accountability. The incidence of administration was iniquitous as the
benefits accrued mostly to the influential and the powerful elite. In terms of methods of
operation, administration was essentially coercive, formal and apparently procedure-

Citizen-administration relations were conditioned by the basic nature and operational

peculiarities of administration during colonial rule. After winning freedom, the imbalance
of a bureaucratic State was sought to be corrected by (a) Expanding the scope of
government functions (b) Creating institutional infrastructure through Panchayati Raj to
promote popular participation, (c) Encouraging political interventions in administration to
modify the rigour of formalism, and (d) Instituting organisational and procedural changes
in the interest of speed and public understanding of administrative action.

Research findings on citizen-administration relations in India reveal interesting trends.

Based on extensive field survey, the findings of the study by Eldersveld, Jagannadham
and Barnabas (1968) indicate: “The attitude of Indian citizens towards their government
and its administrative officials is particularly a complex and paradoxical mosaic of
support and hostility, of consensus and critique. From 75 per cent to 90 per cent view
governmental jobs as prestigious, 90 per cent feel that health and community
development programmes are worthwhile, and less than 50 per cent (20 per cent rural)
are critical of the job performance of Central government officials. On the other hand, the
majority feel that 50 per cent or more of the officials are corrupt, large proportions (60
per cent urban, 32 per cent rural) say their dealings with officials are unsatisfactory, and
majority sense that their probabilities of gaining access to officials and being successful
in processing their complaints with them are low. Over 50 per cent feel officials in certain
agencies are not fair and the citizen can do little by himself, and from 60 per cent to 75
per cent feel that political pull is important in getting administrative action.”

Thus, the statistics do not project a very satisfactory picture. Even tho0ugh, the study
mentioned above was undertaken long ago, the situation at the ground level still endorses
the findings of the study. Studies on ‘Police Administration’ by David H. Bayley (1969),
‘Rural Development’ by Rakesh Hooja (1978) and ‘Urban Government’ by V.
Jagannadham (1978), reveal citizens’ perceptions about public administration in India.
Certain common points that emerge out of these field studies are:

• Citizens’ ignorance about procedures involved in getting things done.

• Unhelpful attitude of government officials, especially the lower level functionaries.

• Inordinate delay and waiting period.

• Prevalence of favouritism in administration.

• Rampant corruption among officials.

• Dependence on middlemen (brokers) to get things done.

• Urban dwellers being more critical about Public Administration than rural

• The rich having easy access to administration. Officials generally avoiding the poor
and underplaying their needs and interests.


The Santhanam Committee on Prevention of Corruption felt that discretionary powers

exercised by different categories of government officials opened up “Scope for
harassment, malpractice and corruption” in the exercise of those powers. The
Administrative Reforms Commission took note of the general public complaint about all-
encompassing corruption in administration and acknowledged the existence of
widespread inefficiency and unresponsiveness of administration to public needs.

Institutional devices to remedy the defects of administration are of particular relevance

for the developing countries. Public administration has a built-in tendency in these
countries to bypass the needs of the people at large. The colonial legacy of limited
government by an administrative elite stands in the way of universalisation of the benefits
of governance. Decision-making on major issues of public policy remains a proud
preserve of the small politico-administrative elite class. The social structure of the
developing societies is characterised by numerous divisions along linguistic, ethnic,
religious, castes and economic lines. More powerful groups in the society tend to bend
the machinery and processes of government to their side and thus monopolise the fruits of
administration. This process of capture of public administration by the powerful social
groups is aggravated by the existence of endemic poverty and illiteracy.

Both economic incapacity and lack of education reduce the dumb millions into a position
of passivity and subservience. Public administration, therefore, tends to become a very
private affair as it usually responds to the demands of a small minority of social elite. The
political process many a time fails to achieve integration of interests and tends to create
instead rigid social divisions. A peril of coalition politics is that once a political party
comes to power through the electoral process, Public administration becomes a captive
agency in the hands of the party. The opposition parties are treated as enemies and not
partners in the process of governance.

The colonial legacy, social diversity, poverty and illiteracy, and the peculiarity of the
political process combine together to rob public administration of its publicness in most
of the developing countries. There are three more reasons for this unhealthy
transformation of public administration: (1) With more and more expansion of
government activities, the lower level functionaries engaged in field administration come
to enjoy a great deal of discretionary powers. Administrative discretion, when exercised
without effective supervision, is sure to breed malpractices and corruption. (2) With the
increasing complexity of legislative work, the legislatures have been granting the
executive more and more discretionary powers and leaving the details to be filled up by
the latter. Delegated legislation has the tendency to magnify executive strength and
discretion. (3) The executive in many developing countries has increasingly been
assuming the role of dispenser of justice also. Administrative adjudication and the use of
Administrative Tribunals have been on the increase in many countries.

Administrative discretion, delegated legislation and administrative adjudication have the

effect of increasing the powers of the executive. Institutional strategies are therefore
necessary to check executive inflation and guard against corruption and administrative
injustice. We will read more on this in Unit 13 of this Course. In the Western
democracies, non-legal institutions like the political parties, the press and the public
opinion have been traditionally exercising control over administrative action. In addition,
the administrative agencies have developed their own internal norms and administrative
ethics. Due to economic affluence, these agencies have been able to function quite fairly
and efficiently in these countries.
By contrast, the developing countries like ours suffer from paucity of resources in a
situation where speedy socio-economic development is imperative. To combat these
conditions, strong political will and steady development of political as well as economic
infrastructure are needed. There is a requirement today, in most developing countries, for
effective checks on the administrative agencies that are proliferating in with the
multiplication of ‘development’ programmes. One response to this situation has been to
identify the different types of development activities that could be handed over to
voluntary organisations.

Debureaucratising development activities has also been attempted by decentralisation of

functions to the local self-governing bodies like municipalities and the panchayat
institutions. It has further been strengthened by 73rd and 74th Amendments to the
Constitution of India. Attempts are on in our country to debureaucratise much of the
developmental activities and bring about people’s empowerment.

Decentralisation and popular participation are attempts at decreasing the area of operation
of the bureaucratic State apparatus. These are measures for less bureaucracy. Alongside
these, other institutional devices have been recommended and instituted for better
bureaucracy. Administrative reform has been a continuous concern of most developing
countries in their search for efficient, effective and transparent administration. To deal
with administrative corruption and redress citizens’ grievances, procedural changes and
institutional innovations have been made in many countries. But, two traditional
institutional devices deserve special mention in this connection: the Ombudsman system,
and the system of Administrative Courts:

The Ombudsman
Ombudsman is a Scandinavian institution. The office of Ombudsman has been in
existence in Sweden since 1809 and in Finland since 1919. Denmark adopted the system
in 1955. Norway and New Zealand introduced it in 1962, and the United Kingdom
appointed the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration on the lines of
Ombudsman in 1967. Several countries in the world have adopted the Ombudsman-like
institution to protect the democratic government from the tyranny of officialdom.

Ombudsman, a Swedish word, stands for “An officer appointed by the legislature to
handle complaints against administrative and judicial action.” Although appointed by the
legislature, the office of Ombudsman is a Constitutional post and the incumbent is
politically independent of the legislature. Traditionally, the appointment is based on the
unanimity principle with all political parties supporting the proposal. As an impartial
investigator, the Ombudsman makes investigations, gets at the facts objectively and
reports back to the legislature. The complainant has to simply write to the Ombudsman
appealing against an administrative decision. The Ombudsman can of course also take the
initiative and investigate on his own. It has the power to inspect the courts and the
administrative agencies and can even take up cases on the basis of press reports.

The Ombudsman system has gained in popularity primarily because of the simple, speedy
and cost-efficient method of handling appeals against administrative decisions. Its
strength lies in the wide publicity that is given to its working in the press and other
forums. The prestige that traditionally goes with the office and the objectivity and
competence of the Ombudsman has contributed to the legitimisation of the institution and
its world-wide acceptance.

As bureaucratic power tends to increase with more and more expansion of government
activities, the search for countervailing mechanisms has been widespread across the
nations. It is against this backdrop that Ombudsman should be regarded as an important
new addition to the armoury of democratic government. Like the legislative auditor, the
Ombudsman enhances the control and prestige of legislatures in a world in which
executive powers are consistently growing.

Parliamentary Commissioner
The Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration in the Untied Kingdom investigates
cases of alleged maladministration referred to him by members of Parliament.
Commissioner defines the domain of maladministration. The Commissioner is debarred
from inquiring into the merits of discretionary administrative decisions that are taken
legally in accordance with appropriate administrative procedure. He has free access to
any information so long as it is not certified to be unavailable in the public interest. The
local authorities, hospital boards, nationalised industries, the police, personnel questions
in the civil service and the armed forces are also excluded from the purview of the
Commissioner. In a sense, his powers are restricted. The Swedish system has much
more powers (Bhattacharya, 1987, op.cit).

The Administrative Courts

The French system of Administrative Courts to deal with disputes between the
administration and the individual citizens is a unique institution that has spread to many
European and African countries like Greece, Belgium, Turkey etc. In France, the
Administrative Courts are separate from the hierarchy of ordinary courts. A distinction is
made between acts for which a government servant is personally liable and suitable in the
ordinary courts (Fautede-Personale) and those, which are the result of administrative
faults for which service as an entity, is responsible (Faute-de-service). The administrative
faults are referred to appropriate Administrative Courts.

The courts of first instance are called Administrative Tribunals, and at the head of the
system of Administrative Courts is the Council of State (Conseil d’Etat). The Council is
the government’s advisory body on legislation; it is also the supreme Administrative
Court. As the Supreme Court of appeal in all administrative matters, the Council
exercises general supervision over administration and possesses ultimate authority over
the discipline of civil servants.


The need for institutional innovation to deal with corruption and citizens’ grievances has
always been felt in India. Various committees and commissions to bring about
administrative changes and create new controlling agencies have made many worthwhile
suggestions from time to time. The Law Commission in its 14th Report drew attention to
the wide field of administrative discretion in India where administrative authority may act
outside the strict limits of law and propriety without the affected citizens being in a
position to get effective redressal. The Santhanam Committee on Prevention of
Corruption thought that it was necessary to devise adequate methods of control over
exercise of discretion by different categories of government servants.

As the Committee observed, “In the more advanced countries various methods of such
control have been devised. We recommend that this should be studied and a system of
control should be devised keeping in mind the vastness of our country and the basic
principles which are enshrined in our Constitution and jurisprudence.” As a sequel to the
Santhanam Committee Report, Vigilance Commissions were set up at the Centre in 1964,
and also in the various states later. Vigilance cells have been created in several
government departments and public sector undertakings.
The Commission receives complaints directly from aggrieved persons. Other sources of
information about corruption and malpractices are the press reports, audit reports,
allegations made by members of Parliament etc. On receiving complaints, the
Commission may ask the:

i) Ministry/department concerned to inquire into it

ii) Central Bureau of Investigation to make an inquiry

iii) CBI Director to register a case and do the investigation

The nature of prosecution depends on the approval of the appropriate sanctioning

authority. The jurisdiction of the Commission is presently limited to complaints against
gazetted officers of equivalent status. The Administrative Reforms Commission set up in
1966 took up on priority basis the matter of redressal of citizens’ grievances. The
Commission felt that the existing institutions to deal with this problem were inadequate
and found the Ombudsman to be a sine qua non of democratic functioning; and as an
essential prerequisite of the progress and prosperity on which the fulfilment of our
democracy depends.

The Commission recommended a two-tier machinery of Lokpal and Lokayukta for

redressal of citizens’ grievances. Lokpal would deal with complaints against ministers
and secretaries to the government at the Central as well as state levels. The Lokayukta,
one at the Centre and one in each state, would attend to complaints against the rest of the
bureaucracy. The Lokpal would be appointed by the President after consultation with the
Chief Justice of India, the chairperson of the Rajya Sabha and the speaker of the Lok
Sabha. The legislations for the institution of Lokpal and Lokayukta were introduced in
parliament in 1968 and again in 1971 and 1977. All of them lapsed with the dissolution
of respective parliaments. The ill-fated Lokpal Bill has so far not been able to pass
through the drill of parliamentary procedures. Lokayuktas in the states have also not been
able to live upto the objectives for which they came into being. The Seventh All India
Conference of Lokayuktas and Up-Lokayuktas held in 2003 suggested that Constitutional
status be conferred on this institution to give it more teeth to fight corruption.

The institutional devices available in the world to redress the citizens’ grievances are
many and varied. In India, several institutional experimentations have been made at the
different levels- Centre, state and local, but the problem still remains largely unresolved.
Dissatisfaction with governmental operations, especially at the cutting-edge levels where
government meets the people directly, namely post office, bank counter, railway booking
office etc. is widespread. The issue of corruption in public administration has again and
again come up for discussion at different levels and in different forms. Keeping in view
the endemic inefficiency in the government and its general insensitivity to the clientele,
the usefulness of Ombudsman or any other grievance-handling machinery would be of
great help if implemented with sincerity. Already an Ombudsman has been created for
the banking sector, and in Kerala, the institution of local government Ombudsman has
recently been set up.

Citizens' Charters Initiative

The Citizens’ Charter initiative is the latest mechanism to define the relationship between
citizens and administration. It demands from the government and other service providers
that a certain degree of accountability, transparency, quality and choice of services be
made available to the people. The concept of Citizens' Charter was initiated following the
Common Cause Initiative in U.K in 1994 during the regime of John Major. The
Citizens’ Charter is no doubt an innovative mechanism. However, its formulation and
enforcement is no easy task. Precise standards of performance have to be set. There has
to be somebody or an authority to monitor performance and watch violations and
maintenance. The citizens have to play an active role in giving timely and necessary
feedback about services rendered by the government agencies. Within the organisations,
the employees must be well-prepared to serve the public as per the agreed-upon

The Prime Minister of India inaugurated a Conference of the Chief Secretaries in

November 1996 on “An agenda for an effective and responsive administration” in order
to restore the faith of the people in the fairness and efficiency of the administration at
different levels. It was admitted that the public agencies had been inward-looking and
alienated from the people. The Government of India has since introduced Citizens’
Charters in a number of departments and agencies with public interface like Income Tax
departments, the LIC, the Railways; the CPWD etc. The Charter places the citizens at the
centre of administration, instead of treating them as a passive recipient of services.

The Citizens’ Charter is usually framed on the basis of the following principles:

• Wide publicity on the standards of performance of public agencies

• Assured quality of services

• Access to information along with courtesy and helpful attitude

• Choices to and consultation with the citizens

• Simplified procedures for receipt of complaints and their quick redressal; and

• Provision of performance scrutiny with citizens’ involvement.

We will read more on Citizens’ Charters in Unit -of Course (013) on Public Systems
Management. We also hope that in the coming years, the idea of Citizens’ Charters will
spread to other organisations at the state and local levels. It has to be seen that the Charter
does not remain a mere ritual and serious as well as sincere efforts are made to involve
the citizens in government operations. Concrete actions need to be taken based on
citizens’ perceptions about government performance. Right to Information Act is another
measure that would ensure better citizens’ access to governmental practices and
programmes, and facilitate the coverage and utility of Citizens’ Charters.

Greater concern for accountability to the public has led to innovative schemes in
countries like the Philippines and Malaysia. In 1994, the Philippines Civil Service
Commission launched a citizen satisfaction campaign called Citizen Now, Not Later. The
campaign involved the adoption of standard norms of conduct and courtesy to clients.
The Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU)
has designed the ‘Client’s Charter’, which is a written commitment aiming at the delivery
of outputs or services to an agency’s clients. Should an agency fail to comply with the
stated quality standards, as per its Charter, the public can use this as a `basis for
complaints’ against non-compliance. In the same vain, several other ‘initiatives on
citizens’-administration interface are taking place worldwide.

Another dimension of citizen-administration relationship that cannot be overlooked is the

increased accessibility of citizens to the administration. This has been possible due to the
recent accent on ‘e-governance’. The information age paradigm shift has redefined the
fundamentals of administration and changed the institutions and mechanisms of delivery
of goods and services forever. Knowledge-based society enables the sharing of vast
16 amount of information on a global scale almost instantaneously, which consequently
helps in selecting, absorbing and adopting relevant technology and services. The focus
today is on the user’s needs. Many developed countries have already taken recourse to e-
governance in order to increase the effectiveness of the interface between citizens and
public administration and to improve the efficiency of administrative structures and
processes (Chowdhry, 2003). Our MPA 2nd Year Course (017) on e-governance will
discuss the benefits of e-governance in improving citizens and administration interaction
in detail.


The essential ingredients of the citizen-administration relationship are adequate

knowledge of administrative norms, practices and structures for both citizens and
administration; positive evaluation of the job performance of government officials; and
perceptions of administrative system as sensitive and responsive to the public, rather than
inflexible and remote. In the present scenario where economy, culture and society are
changing, the situations demand a forging of a new equilibrium between the bureaucracy
and the citizens. The goal of the bureaucracy must be to create an administration-citizens
interface based on participation, information, belief, confidence and action orientedness
that tends to meet the expectations of the citizens. Simultaneously, the attitude of citizens,
self-help groups, corporations, associations of all kinds, and private institutions must also
be supportive of the public authorities when genuine public interest is being served.
Various mechanisms such as Citizens’ Charters, Ombudsman like institutions, and
participatory devices have been introduced to facilitate redressal of citizens’ grievances.
These need to be revamped to strengthen the interface between citizens and
administration in the positive direction. This Unit examined some of these issues.



A Strategy for rightsizing and reforming bureaucracy in order to make it more

responsive, transparent, effective and accountable. The bureaucracy is expected to
simplify administrative routines and procedures as well as reduce costs in order to
improve interactions with citizens and non-state actors.

The Right to Information Act

It is a comprehensive Act passed by the Parliament in 2005. It includes provisions for

independent appeals, penalties for non-compliance, proactive disclosure, and clarity and
simplicity of the information access process. The Act imposes obligations on governance
agencies to disclose information, thus reducing the cost of access.


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1. Try to visit any nearby government office and note down the different types of
interactions between administrative officials and the citizens that visit the office.

2. Based on Activity One, make a list of the nature of encounters (satisfactory and
unsatisfactory) between the administrative officials and the citizens.